Mortality, goodbye to my grampa, and taking youth for granted

Last weekend my grampa was in a hospital with pneumonia, his blood pressure 70/30 and they were unable to get an IV needle in him. We talk every day, my aunt or my dad, and I, about whether it’s time to fly to Couer d’Alene (via Spokane) to say goodbye. The crisis seems to be averted for now. My grampa has had dementia for many years, and doesn’t know me when I see him.

I want to go with them, since there won’t be a funeral or memorial service, per Grampa’s wishes. He’s a WWII vet and has paid in advance to be cremated, and his ashes spread over the Pacific.

Glen Alfred Openshaw has lived till 93 despite many years of alcoholism and chain smoking. His first wife, my grandmother, put a bullet in her brain when my daddy was just 12. My dad was a crossing guard assigned by the school, and was standing in the crosswalk holding children back to safety with his arms when a neighborhood friend ran up to tell him his mother was being removed from the home by ambulance. My dad stayed another 20 minutes to finish his duties—this tells you about the kind of human being  he is. Loyal, hard-working, duty-oriented.

I imagine, with the addictions he developed, my grampa was running from ghosts. However, he did kick both of those habits when I was young, and saved his fifth marriage and probably the last half of his life, in so doing.

Before we got the word about Grampa, I was in the stands watching Cade pitch another 11-1 game, so close to being another shut-out, against Orem High. My two youngest brothers were there, Spencer and Ben, whom I refer to as Spennie and Bennie. They are lifelong best friends. Spencer arrived with Dill Pickle flavored sunflower seeds, and we had this convo:

Me: Did you get those because it’s a baseball game and all baseball players spit seeds?

Spencer: No, I actually just had them in my car.

Me: Well, I don’t want to ruin your enjoyment of them, but did you know that flavor is loaded with MSG?

Ben: We know! That’s why we buy them! In fact I am looking to buy some EXTRA MSG sunflower seeds. It is my favorite food, MSG is. [Both my brothers laughing and eating seeds.]

Me: Okay. Well. Informed decisions are good. Now you’re informed.

That same week, I had a convo with my friend Sam who is a golfer, basketball player, and 4.5 tennis player and coach, an R.N.—as well as a smoker. Not for the first time, I told him how much I wish he would quit.

Much like I begged my grampa to quit smoking, when I was a little girl, and flushed his cigarettes down the toilet—my grampa did quit and never smoked or drank again.

In response, Sam said, “Here’s the thing. Nobody loves their life more than I do mine. But I don’t want to be 70 years old! I want to die before then.”

I said, “Yeah, but remember when we were 20 and we thought 40 was old? We figured, who cares if we bake in the sun, or get drunk and eat junk food! We won’t care when we’re 40 because old people are just OLD and don’t care about anything.”

Sam laughs and says yes. “So,” I continue, “what if it’s the same way when we’re 70? We don’t know, because we’re not 70 yet. But what if you GET there and you really WANT to keep living—not only living, but living WELL, for another 30 years?”

“Why do you want to make that decision NOW when you might be just as in love with life, at 70?”

I love the way we rationalize our way out of the consequences of our decisions with silly logic.

There’s another problem with Sam’s logic: what if you DON’T die, but are just sick, and smell awful, and have a hacking cough and black lungs—emphysema or lung cancer for years and years? What if you don’t die until 70, but you wreck the life you could have been living in the meantime?

I love that my grampa has lived 93 years. I wouldn’t want the last 15 years of his life, for myself, though. I hope to keep my brain free of metals and junk, so I’m clear as a bell till the end.

I want to go out like a light switch, not on a dimmer bulb. I want that for my family and friends, all of you, too.

9 thoughts on “Mortality, goodbye to my grampa, and taking youth for granted

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  1. Hi Robin

    I am seventy, I so enjoy life, I am glad I never smoked, or drank. I exercise everyday, I enjoy my grandchildren, and worry about my husband, that both smoked and drank.

    Tell that Brother of yours, he will not feel any different when he turns 70 than he does right now, except, he will regret the decisions he is making to his young body at this time.

  2. I’m going to be 70 in three months and love my life! I’m probably happier than I’ve ever been and part of that is due to excellent health. I gave up processed foods (including sugar and alcohol) three years ago and it made a huge difference in my life. I walk most days, 4-5 miles, have a veggie garden, am deeply involved with genealogy and family history and have a great social life with my wonderful family and friends. What more could anyone want?

  3. Hello,

    I order you ebook 12 Steps to Whole Foods and alas wouldn’t you know it my laptop crashed and I lost my downloaded copy. Is it possible for you to look up my name and send it to me again? I’m back online again but without a lot of data!

    Please send me the downloadable link again. I did legally pay for it. You can look it up.

    Thank you.

    Joanne Babiak

  4. Your message hits home as my dad is 91, also a WWII vet, yet he is sharp as a tac! He still has a garden, volunteers 5 days a week at the food pantry, and lives in the house he built where all 7 of my siblings grew up along with my mom (age 87). His good eating all these years has kept them both so vibrant, it really does make a difference! They both take a baby aspirin a day…………thats it! They are a true inspiration and often times hard to keep up with! ha My dad does have macular degeneration, but as you know, it could be a lot worse. God bless your grandfather, they really are the greatest generation!

  5. HI, My dad died at 90 was in very good health his whole life, non-smoker and very little alcohol but he did have a potatoe chip and salty nuts addiction. He loved happy hour with his favs. After one heart attack i cleaned out his cupboards from all the box mixes, hydrogenated oils, canned vegies and taught him how to eat more heathly foods that have the natural enzymes and vitamins and how to cook without crisco and not to use the microwave. He listened and did better and had a very healthy life. Acute Myloid lukemia got him after only 3 weeks of the diagnosis. He went fast and we never knew what caused it. He also was a very famous WW11 hero and very patriotic to the end. Always flew a big American flag and was very proud to have served in the Navy for 20 yrs retired as the youngest Navy Captain. He went in the service at age 17, graduated with honors from Stanford U and became the only enlisted ACE fighter pilot. Captain Lee Paul Mankin will always be remembered for all he did for our country.

    1. Barbara, thanks for sharing that bio of your dad. What a great man he was, and God bless him for defending our country so valiantly!

  6. Only two more metal fillings left to replace. Very few people listen to reason but those few that have I am proud of and they feel “smoothie” about it. Follow the mercury and water treatments. Thanks.

  7. This is right up my personal world view alley when it comes to health. I don’t particularly want to live a long life – I want to live what ever life I have well. So I eat healthy and exercise, which practically guarantees I will live a long time, which is not my goal, per se. Also, I foresee that I will probably be completely alone in the last years of my life – no children, no family worth being around (how can I put this…in the relationship food pyramid of life, my family is like high fructose corn syrup, but not that sweet – just that unhealthy), my best friend is 10 years older than me,and women tend to outlive their husbands. I don’t want to be looking back and saying ‘if I’d just made better choices, these final years would be a hell of a lot easier.’ No amount of money, or even a family’s love, if you are lucky enough to have it, can undo decades of stupid, short-sighted choices. Exactly one person is responsible for the health of your lifetime, and it’s you.

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